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Rhetorical Analysis: Carl Becker Ideal Democracy Essay

Millions of people were dying and millions more were about to die. Ideal Democracy was a speech written and spoke by Carl Becker at the University of Virginia in 1941. At the time the United States had just joined into War World II. Many people had little faith in the war and thought we were just throwing away lives. Becker was invited to the University of Virginia to deliver a speech associated with the founder, Thomas Jefferson, but have no subject. According to l Becker the American Revolution not only wanted to have independence from Great Britain but also wanted to establish a new and better form of government, an ideal democracy. Ideal democracy, a system of government that is created by the people, for the people and run by the people. Becker then proceeds to voice his opinions on this form of ideal democracy and our current democracy.

Becker belief in ideal democracy was that it was run of the people, by the people and for the people. However his view on real democracy is that it is a government of the people, run by politicians for groups that can get their own interest taken cared for. Over the years the line between what Becker’s belief of ideal democracy and real democracy, that Thomas Jefferson tried so hard to protect, were starting to become a blur. Becker saw an opportunity to change the viewpoints of many Americans by starting with this speech for the University of Virginia students and staff.

One of Carl Becker’s many points of writing this speech was to bring awareness of what we were fighting for at the time of war world II. At the time many Americans didn’t believe in the war and had doubts about getting involved. Becker saw what the war was protecting. Becker saw that it was protecting the little things everyone in the nation took for granted, our democracy. In 1776 the United States and their founding fathers declared their independence from Great Britain to establish freedom. The founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, put everything on the line for their vision of a new free world.

On December 7th 1941, Japan threated the founding fathers vision of a new free world by attacking Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. On December 8th 1941, the United States even though they were already fighting declared war officially. One point in his speech he compares Napoleon, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler to democracy explaining that, “ if this what we mean by democracy, then virtually all forms of government are democratic, since virtually all governments, except in the time of revolution, rest upon the explicit or implicit consent of the people” (Becker, 148). In the eyes of Becker losing the war meant losing democracy and everything the great nation of the United States had worked so hard to get in the first place.

Through out the speech Carl Becker kept a very formal diction to insure to his audience, the American people, that he was respecting the topic. Ideal democracy is a very important topic and by keeping a formal diction, it showed his audience that he understood how much this topic affected them. Becker was very technical in his speech given. Becker also understood that the more technical he could be the more specific he could be. This also meant that the audience could listen to his speech and know that he knows what he is talking about. Becker made many references to other authors like James Bryce and his work Modern Democracies. Bryce was a British academic, jurist and historian who at one point in his life was the British ambassador for the United States.

Bryce had a similar idea to Becker where, “power will be shared by all, and a career open to all-alike” (Bryce, 48). By Becker referring to a well know academic and historian he has now appealed to the audience’s ethos. Becker also touches on the subject of Napoleon, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler and how if we don’t fight in this war we will lose everything we have worked for; this is appealing to the audience’s pathos. In one other part of Becker’s speech he says, “In the twelfth and thirtieth centuries certain favorably placed medieval cities enjoyed a measure of self government, but in most instances it was soon replaced by the dictatorship of military conquerors”(Becker, 150).

Becker continues to go on with more and more detail about the twelfth and thirtieth centuries loading the audiences with facts. All of these facts are a clear link to the audience’s sense of logos. In most of Becker’s Sentence they contain subordinate clause as well as an independent clause. Clearly not all of the sentences were like this however most of them were complex sentences. For example Becker wrote, ”From this brief survey it is obvious that, taking the experience of mankind as a test, democracy has as yet had but a limited and temporary success”(151). Of course not all of Becker’s sentences were like this, there were signs of all four types. The next most notable would by the simple sentences, with only an independent clause. There are several examples of these in the speech as well.

Over the course of Becker’s speech there were many other authors Becker chooses to include in his speech. Some of these authors were James Mill, and James Bryce. According to James Mill, “He thought that when the legislature no longer represented a class interest, it would aim at the general interest, honestly and with adequate wisdom; since the people would be sufficiently under the guidance of educated intelligence” (Mill, 74). This directly links Mill’s statement with Carl Becker’s statement, “ Napoleon called his government a democratic empire, but no one, least of all Napoleon himself, doubted that he had destroyed the last vestiges of the democratic republican. Carl Becker’s thoughts and ideas are expressed almost exactly how he wanted them to be through someone else’s words, James Mill.

Becker started to bring the idea back of ideal democracy; just because past civilizations couldn’t keep democracy does not mean that the United States is just going to give it away. Becker compares the most ideal version of democracy there is and explains how the United States also does not have the perfect form of it either. Becker explains how the United States democracy is for special interest groups and not for the people. Becker wants democracy run of the people, by the people and for the people however the United States current government is of the people, run by politicians for groups that can get their own interest taken cared for. He wants to see change.

Becker did an amazing job when he wrote this speech clearly thinking of every possible thing. He gets right off the bat and explains that if we don’t fight in this war we will lose our democracy and everything we take for granted. In his speech he keeps a very respectful and formal tone, as the current form of government and war are a very touchy subject for most people. Becker includes several examples for the audiences, which was the university of Virginia students and staff, to relate with ethos, pathos, and logos. His sentence structure was very complex often with a subordinate clause as well as an independent clause. Becker related and brought in quotes from several other authors who all illustrated his point very well. Becker also wanted to see while we were fighting for this form of democracy that we shouldn’t be happy with what we have but strive to get that perfect, ideal, form of democracy.

Works Cited
The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2014. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/. September 18, 2014.

NNDB.CarlBecker, 2014. http://www.nndb.com/people/461/000099164/ September 18, 2014

Becker, Carl. Ideal Democracy. Virginia: Becker, 1941. Speech

Mill, John. Autobiography. Columbia press, 1924. Book

Bryce, James. Becker’s notes. N/A: Becker 1923. Notes

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